Recent finals history haunts Sandhurst

Sandhurst midfielder Nick Stagg.

Sandhurst midfielder Nick Stagg.

THIS weekend 12 months ago, Sandhurst went into the elimination final against Gisborne hot favourite.

After leading at quarter-time, the Dragons capitulated to lose by 41 points.

Finals failures have haunted the club in the past decade.

Since their last flag in 2004, the Dragons are 2-8 in finals matches.

They’ve lost their past four finals, with their most recent win the 2011 elimination final against South Bendigo.

Lee Coghlan, Matt Thornton, Nick Stagg, Tom Hartney, Ryan Haythorpe and Joel Wharton are the only Dragons playing in Sunday’s qualifying final against Gisborne who have tasted success with Sandhurst in a BFNL final. Wingman Jake McLean played in a premiership with Golden Square.

Brett Fitzpatrick is in his first year as coach of the Dragons.

While he wasn’t part of Sandhurst’s past finals failures, Fitzpatrick expects there to be some mental demons lingering amongst the playing group.

“The (mental demons) will exist in some mindsets,’’ Fitzpatrick admitted.

“The club hasn’t had a lot of success since the last flag… that’s a fact.

“All those things will be brought to attention and given a voice, but I don’t live in fear of those things.”

Of greater concern to Fitzpatrick is getting the Dragons to return to the form they showed in dismantling Gisborne twice in the home and away season.

The Dragons lost their momentum with a 19-point loss to Eaglehawk in the final round last Saturday.

“The belief will be there for the guys that we can beat Gisborne, it’s just a matter of whether the mindset matches that belief,’’ Fitzpatrick said.

“There was quite a difference in our attitude when you compare the two wins we had against Gisborne and last week’s loss to Eaglehawk.

“We need to get back on the same page and we’ve addressed that through the week.

“Finals time is a different story and we spoke about what’s expected at this time of year.”

Sandhurst looks set to inject more pace into its side for the qualifying final.

Bendigo Pioneers trio Tom Cole, Lachlan Tardrew and Billy Evans are in line for selection.

Sandhurst’s cause hasn’t been helped by a quadricep injury to reliable defender Andrew O’Connor.

“It happened at training through the week,’’ Fitzpatrick said.

“It’s a blow to us because he’s a very good defensive player.

“We’re hoping we’ll get him back… we’ll know more after the weekend.”

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